FEATURE: Warburton facing a summer of hard graft as he prepares for life as a professional footballer
For the majority of the Cobblers squad, the next few weeks are going to be about putting their feet up and relaxing after a long, hard, Sky Bet League Two season.
It’s a time to recharge the batteries, a chance to rest the legs and lungs after 10 months of physical exertion, and to forget about the mental strain of football for a while.
But that definitely won’t be the case for Matty Warburton, who last week signed for the club from non-League Stockport County on a two-year contract.
The first reason for that is the fact Warburton does not leave his current full-time day job as a PE teacher at Ashton on Mersey School in Sale until June 7.
The second reason being that the attacking midfielder, who turns 27 in a week’s time, is determined to be ‘in the best shape possible’ when he rocks up for the ‘toughest pre-season I will have had’ at the end of June.
And that means a summer of training and working hard to ensure he is at the right level to ‘hit the ground running’ at his new club.
He is going to go through a ‘pre-pre-season’ if you like!
“It will be a case of getting myself into the best possible shape I can get into, so I can come back in and really take on what will be the toughest pre-season I will have had,” said Warburton.
“I will try to hit the ground running and start well when we get back, and then hopefully I will get myself in the starting line-up, that is the ambition.
“I know it is going to be incredibly difficult, there are some fantastic professionals here already, but I have been given this chance and I want to try to take it.”
So, is Warburton aware of what a pre-season at a full-time professional Football League club entails?
“No, but Keith (Curle) has dropped a few hints, which have made me a bit uneasy!,” he said.
“He has mentioned what it’s all about, and I am not fearful of it. I just need to come back in the best shape I can to give myself the best chance to be in amongst it.
“The last thing I want to do is come in as a semi-professional, and for people to be able to tell I have been a semi-professional, against these professionals.
“I don’t want that, so I will be doing everything I possibly can to make sure I am at that professional level, fitness wise, and then hopefully my ability can come through as well.”
It is certainly going to be a culture shock for Warburton, who has only ever played non-League, semi-professional football, which involves combining training and playing with a full-time day job.
Warburton is clearly fit already to play at the level he has been doing, so how did the pre-season work during his two years at Edgeley Park?
“At Stockport, for pre-season we would do three nights at the start, so we would do Monday, Tuesday and Thursday,” said the former Curzon Ashton player.
“They would be 90-minute sessions usually, sometimes two hours depending on what the gaffer wanted.
“After that it would turn into Tuesday and Thursday sessions, but with a game usually being on the Tuesday in the first few weeks of the season, when we would have games Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday.
“So we would only usually train once, on a Thursday, so I am well aware it is a huge workload change.
“But with being in work all day and then going to training, it kind of balances out.”
It is certainly going to be a big change for Warburton, but come June his job description will no longer be ‘teacher’, it will be ‘footballer’, and that will ensure one massive extra bonus.
As a part-time footballer, Warburton would train and play in midweek, and then have to get up to go to work the following morning.
That will no longer be the case, with Warburton adding with a smile: “I’ll now be able to train and then go home and sleep!”
A player making the step up from non-League to the EFL in their mid-20s is an unusual occurrence in modern football.
Warburton has always loved playing the game and has always been close, but not quite close enough to fulfilling his dream of turning pro.
He was at the Manchester United Academy as an 11 and 12-year-old, and at the Stockport centre of excellent from the ages of 12 to 15.
But he then drifted towards the non-League scene, playing for his local team Maine Road before signing for Curzon Ashton.
Warburton was a regular goalscorer and creator during his time at Ashton and then, briefly, at Salford City, but it was in the past two years at Stockport that he really flourished, netting 48 goals in 98 matches, and assisting many, many more.
The player says he thought the chance of him becoming a full-time professional had passed him by, but his form and performances this season made people, and Keith Curle in particular, sit up and take notice.
So when did Warburton think he may have a chance of landing himself a place at a League club?
“Probably from the start of this year if I am honest,” he said.
“I had never had an agent before this year, and in January I went on a bit of a hot streak, and I think I scored nine in the month.
“From there there was quite a lot of interest in me that Mark, my agent, was getting, so probably from there onwards I thought ‘I might have a chance here’.
“From then on I have just got my head down, I have been in and out, but I have now managed to secure this move.
“I know a lot of players will fall down the ladder from academies, from under-18s and under-23s, and I have kind of gone the opposite way, I have worked my way up.”
Moving into the professional game with the Cobblers is a dream for Warburton.
It is certainly a big deal for him, and he accepts some people will think his decision to give up a career in teaching to try his luck as a footballer is a risk.
But he doesn’t see it like that.
“Some people will see it as a risk,” accepted Warburton.
“I have been teaching now for five years, I have earned my degree, and I have earned my PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education), so a teaching career is something I can go back into.
“It’s not as if I am leaving a career to go and do something that is the polar opposite.
“I am staying within my field of sport, and the worst-case scenario if I do fall out of football then hopefully a school will give me a chance, and see that I have been a professional footballer, and see what I have done previously at my old school.
“Fingers crossed it won’t get to that stage though, because I would like to have a happy and successful career at Northampton.”